“How good were you at cross country, Mom?” my daughter asked.
“Not good at all,” I replied.
“I’m not even kidding,” I said, laughing along with her. “But I learned so much.”
Running cross country in high school laid a foundation for many other experiences in life since, perhaps more so than anything else from my K-12 schooling experience. For example:
- I came from a small, rural community well-known for its successful cross country teams. While I experienced the excitement of running in the state meet one year and standing with my team on the podium with a team gold medal around my neck, I was the 7th runner on my team and often close to the end (or at the end) of the finishers. And that was my best year of the four. Needless to say, I learned a lot about doing my best, rather than focusing on being the best. I learned about perseverance and not having to be the most impressive in order to contribute to something great. Over time, this positioned me to be able to better understand gratitude for blessings and humility.
- When going on runs, sometimes we would focus on a certain marker in front of us. It could be a tree, a street sign, a house — anything really. Then, once we got there, we would choose another marker to focus on. Little by little we would arrive at the end point. In college when I went with the Spanish Club on an extended spring break to backpack part of El Camino de Santiago, I used the same strategy. Eventually those two positioned me for coping during labor and childbirth, and then being able to think about the concept of doing the next thing in life in general — of recognizing when the big picture is overwhelming and then conscientiously making a choice to just discern to the best of my ability what God is calling me to do in the moment while surrendering the bigger picture.
- The ups and downs with running built endurance which also connected to contractions and moments of relief in labor, which eventually translated to better understanding consolations and desolations in the spiritual life.
“Those are front-of-the-pack problems that I know nothing about,” has been the phrase I have said with a laugh multiple times this season as my sixth-grader has been participating in cross country for the first time.
Exactly twenty years after my last season, she is finding great joy in the sport that was so meaningful to me — but she views it through the lens of being a top runner on a top team. There will be some commonalities that can connect us, such as the elements of endurance and perseverance, but I can also see a natural foundation building that I have needed to learn (or am in progress of learning) from different avenues. She is learning about pacing herself for certain distances, about getting the feel for what to expect while also having elements of surprise based on different courses. She is learning to navigate a course without necessarily having someone in front of her, sometimes going off-course until someone calls out to correct her.
My hunch is that one of the greatest lessons she will be learning through the sport is that she cannot let her place at the finish line determine her worth. Instead, she needs to be grounded in knowing that her worth comes from who she is in relation to God. Factors that impact how she races can change in an instant, but the solid foundation of being a beloved daughter will always remain.
Loving Lord, I am in awe with the way that you can weave different experiences in life to form patterns that teach us lessons. As she feels the wind in her hair, the air in her lungs and the exhilaration of winning the race, help her remember she is loved. When challenges come her way, when she is frustrated, or when circumstances impact her position in the race or her ability to run, help her remember she is loved. Thank you for the way you use our hobbies, interests and experiences to lead us closer to you. Help us to be open to your movements in our hearts.
Copyright 2018 Amanda Villagómez